“You know very little of me,” Rolan smirked, watching her face with amusement. The way she held herself was truly an art, the skills of manipulation and subtle hints perfected to survive the backstabbing blood house known as the royal court. Had she been born to be someone of lower blood, the rogue would have thought her to be using magic in order to charm her way through tough situations but the young royal didn’t need it. Even as she hid behind her hood, disappearing into its shadows, the air of cool composure and etiquette still lingered in every word and motion.

“Monetary compensation is….appreciated, but I don’t take on a job just because the first fat-pursed noble throws me his coins and thinks that his problems have disappeared. I learned the hard way to trust my instincts and right now, they are telling me that you aren’t being fully honest with me.”

He sat back, watching the young woman and carefully observing her, waiting for any sign that would lead him to the truth. His teachers – con artists, thieves and hired hands – all taught him that no matter how composed someone was, there was always a way to tell what they were thinking. Subtle movements, the barely catchable breathe, a twitch of a muscle or a particular attitude. People gave away so much without even realizing it and Rolan had in the past been able to avoid quite a few death attempts by seeing those signs, the most memorable time in Luskan with the huge Barbarian and his Druid companion. If not for his gut feeling them and the quick glance that he caught his way, the rogue might have been 6 feet down in the frozen northern ground, far from lands he called….home? That in itself required thought – who was this girl to him? An employer, a sovereign, a pretty thing to conquer? Was she a liability, a threat, an opportunity? What would she bring?

The laughter, pushing and a thud as two figures made it down the stairs made him look up. Neri and Colm, oblivious to anything, seemed to be in some discussion of their own, the girl growling and seeming to threaten her companion, the young man chuckling and saying something that made the redhead roll her eyes and mutter something under her nose. Waving in his direction, the duo continued to the bar stand much to Hogarth’s pleasure. Scowling at the rogue, the tavern owner snapped at one of the barmaids to fetch food for the pair, adding a few curses in the local dialect when the girl didn’t seem to be bothered to move faster than a snail.

Regardless of how Rolan viewed Colm, the bard having been a little more than a burden for the past six months, he felt responsible for the pair. Neri was his protégée, something of a sister and a daughter. Colm was a pet that he, whether he liked it or not, became attached to. They were becoming restless on the isles and they needed money before going back to the mainland. Money was still a pressing issue and the longer they stayed in the Dancing Seabear, the more dire their situation would become. Unless the city was a shithole full of his brethren by trade, a safe haven for the shady folk in Faerun, people would eventually start asking questions and sticking their noses into the wrong sort of business. If Rolan were to solve the issues in his regular manner, fear would drive people to extremes. Knowing his companions, they were bound to find their own issues soon if not already. No, he had to get them out, for their sake and the sake of the people around them.

*****

Neri watched the exchange, first chocking on her anger at the man then at Colm for stepping into her battle. Following after the blonde, she shot daggers into his back before deciding it wasn’t worth it – her friend was simply returning the favor from earlier that evening. Besides, if push came to shove, she doubted the naked foreigner stood much of a chance to escape her without a few broken ribs and a bleeding nose. After that though, she would get quite an ear flogging from Hogarth and, once he stopped laughing, a very unpleasant conversation with Rolan about the idea of keeping a low profile. While the Moonshae Isles were not small, there were enough people to have some old scores to settle with a certain rogue. And while her mentor never really put any boundaries on what she could and couldn’t do, Neri doubted that getting him a beating was the proper way to say thank you. Allowing the bard to deal with the foreigner with his sharp words and easy threat, she followed him down to the main floor.

“You really think Hogarth will go for your offer?” she asked as they made their way down the stairs. When she didn’t get an immediate response, she huffed and grabbed the man’s sleeve. “Colm, you do know Rolan said to lie low. Besides, how do you know your friends,” she smirked, “aren’t back to drown their sorrows in some liquor or to check if a certain troublemaking bard isn’t here?”

Not waiting for an answer, she slipped into an empty chair by the bar, elbowing left and right to make some room for her and the man. Giving the youth beside her a glare when he dared protest, Neri waited until the sleepy looking maid set up two plates of steaming ham and potatoes before her and the bard, hungrily ripping into the food and letting a sign of pleasure as her stomach stopped grumbling.